A S TUDY GUIDE by Christine evely http://www.metromagazine.com.au http://www.theeducationshop.com.


About the book
You can’t help but wonder whether there is something autobiographical about the main character in Jeff Kinney’s pre-teen illustrated literary series Diary of a Wimpy Kid, upon which the film of the same name is based. From its origins as a series of online cartoons, Diary of a Wimpy Kid exploded onto the pop culture scene when Kinney’s first ‘novel in cartoons’ was published in 2007. Diary of a Wimpy Kid spent almost three years on the New York Times’ children’s best-seller list, has thus far sold 28 million copies and has been translated into thirty-three languages. The book captured the imaginations of an army of formerly reluctant readers and launched countless video reviews, social networking fan groups and parties celebrating the release of each new instalment.

DiD you know? Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney has been described as a semi-autobiographical journal/cartoon book. It focuses on the life of seventh-grader Greg Heffley and is available both online and as a traditional hard-copy book. who will like this book? The book appeals to both competent and struggling readers who will connect with Greg as the trials and tribulations of his school life unfold. Logging on each day to read the online version offers a fun way to engage today’s young people.
While Kinney had originally targeted adults through the book’s nostalgic look at middle school life as told through a narrator with fantasies of greatness, kids immediately connected to his blending of the subversive and edgy with fun and wholesomeness. Most of all, they responded to the titular hero’s unique voice, summed up by his signature line ‘I’m stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons’. Given such pronouncements, it’s no surprise that Greg Heffley is far from a traditional role model – he’s judgmental, selfish and lazy, but nevertheless always likeable. ‘I wanted to create a character that was realistic,’ Kinney explains. ‘Many times in children’s literature, the protagonist is really just a miniature adult. I wanted to come up with a kid who was relatable and far from perfect. I worked hard to avoid dumbing down the books, talking down to kids, and wanted to make sure the stories avoided lots of lessons learned.’ Kinney’s representations of the absurdity of middle school life delighted readers. A particular favourite is the ‘cheese touch’, which has become the stuff of middle school legend, horror, disgust and gossip. At Greg’s school, a mouldy piece of cheese has mysteriously appeared in the schoolyard, growing more foul and powerful by the day. If there’s a single thing these middle schoolers dread, it’s accidentally brushing against the decrepit slice and thus being branded with the cheese touch’s nuclear cooties. The only way to get rid of the cheese touch is by touching some other unfortunate classmate – it’s like a game of tag, only grosser.

About the film
Like the books, the film Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Thor Freudenthal, 2010) focuses upon the life of Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), a flawed but likeable kid who has a strong sense of his own importance, but who faces daily battles arising from his own shortcomings. Small in stature, he must deal with bullies, girls, gross bodily functions – his own and others – all the while aiming to be the most popular kid in middle school. His best friend, despite his weight issue, is comfortable with who he is, enjoys what life has to offer and is instinctively loyal. To Greg, middle school is the dumbest idea ever invented. It’s a place rigged with hundreds of social landmines, not the least of which are morons, wedgies, swirlies, bullies, lunchtime banishment to the cafeteria floor and, worst of all, a festering piece of cheese with nuclear cooties. To survive the never-ending ordeal and attain the recognition and status he feels he so richly deserves, Greg devises an endless series of can’t-miss schemes, all of which, of course, go awry. And he’s getting it all down on paper, via a diary – ‘it’s NOT a diary, it’s a journal!’ Greg insists, preferring the lesssissyfied designation – filled with his opinions, thoughts, tales of family trials and tribulations, and (would-be) schoolyard triumphs. ‘No one looks back at their middle school years wishing to relive them,’ says Kinney. ‘You see a lot of movies about elementary school kids, high school students and college students, but very few set in middle school because those years are universally kind of ugly.’ Although live action, the film draws its style from the book’s witty dialogue, humorous journal entries and cartoon-style illustrations.



Your turn: rate the writer • Use an interactive whiteboard to display the interview with author Jeff Kinney at <http://www. disgust or anger. books and films offer two distinct ways to tell a story. • Create a Venn diagram to show similarities and differences in the ways books and films tell stories. However. have each student create a poster advertising for an actor to play the role in the film. ask each student to rate him out of five stars. In pairs. or encourage students to read it for themselves. as a class. Rowley. How interesting is Jeff Kinney? Based on the previous activities.com>. Often people criticise films that are based on books because the filmmakers change elements of the story. This study guide provides teachers and students from early primary to lower secondary levels with background information. As a class and based upon the September entries from the book. list qualities you would require of the actors you would select to play Greg and his best friend. book to film Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a film that has been adapted from a series of illustrated novels. 3 . • Ask students to consider whether the illustrations added to or detracted from the story. Ask individual students to select one of the book’s characters and to then create a pen portrait describing the chosen character. • Read the entries for September from the book Diary of a Wimpy Kid to the class.Teaching and learning activities using DiArY of A WimpY kiD in the clAssroom Diary of a Wimpy Kid has a PG rating in Australia. discuss which things the students found most interesting about Jeff Kinney. books films Your turn: cast the actors • Seated in a circle. have students who have read Diary of a Wimpy Kid share key story elements from it such as characters. setting. a range of discussion questions and activities to support the curriculum areas of English. Encourage students to re-read the entries and to explore the accompanying illustrations. Discourage students from giving away too much of the story. Then. especially events that were funny or that provoked other strong emotions such as pity. Based on the pen portrait. plot drivers and themes. SCREEN EDUCATION Your turn: act on your emotions • Take turns to discuss and act out favourite parts of the book. The Arts and SOSE/HSIE. have students use the interview to take turns to role-play being the interviewer and the author. Display the posters in the classroom.wimpykid. • Read Diary of a Wimpy Kid to the class. Ask them to justify their opinions.

interactions and events that occurred with students in the schoolyard. ‘Greg is by turns insecure. Patty Ferrell (Laine MacNeil) . funny. particularly Greg’s flawed nature. such as: . Throughout the process. his two brothers and his parents . So they focused on the friendship between Greg and Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron). ‘Jeff was an invaluable asset in the writing of this film. aggressive. ‘would Rowley do that?’ But he also read every outline and draft. 4 SCREEN EDUCATION . like ‘would Greg do this?’. Fold the outline in half down the mid line of the drawing and draw in Greg’s face. Having known each other since elementary school (all those years ago!).’ Jackie Filgo. shy.the dynamics between Greg. another of the film’s screenwriter. but its episodic nature – it’s a diary (journal!).’ Discuss as a class: • How could the filmmakers ensure that Greg and his friends make the transition from book to screen with all their features and flaws intact? Kinney’s book provided all the essential ingredients for the film. Use the two halves of the body to feature Greg’s strengths on the left hand side of his body and his flaws on the right hand side. ‘He was always available for the inevitable question.the relationship between Greg and his arch-enemy. and kind. cruel. then act it out for your class.In adapting Kinney’s book for the screen. Work with a partner to create a one-minute role-play for a new narrative driver. brainstorm other narrative drivers that the filmmakers might have focused upon. and gave priceless feedback. Greg and Rowley are connected by their shared experiences. It was our challenge to make sure Greg and his friends made the transition from book to screen with all their features and flaws intact.’ says co-screenwriter Jeff Filgo. Kinney provided essential insights. Be creative in the ways you feature Greg’s strengths and flaws. Your turn: role-play • As a class. and every now and then all of them at once. after all – necessitated that the filmmakers come up with a stronger narrative drive. draw an outline on butcher paper around one student’s body. Your turn: features and f laws • Working in pairs. the filmmakers were intent on being true to his characters. anyone who is around kids knows that they can be all of those things at different times. adds.

Your turn: rate the trailer • Create a class rating continuum by standing in a line across the room to show how much you enjoyed the film trailer. Do you think the filmmakers have done a good job in 5 . list examples from early in the film that tell the audience Greg is clearly image conscious. How do you think this ‘advice’ from his brother will affect Greg’s feelings about his first day? As a class.the genre of the film. VieWing the film View the film in a cinema setting if possible.com>. billboard screens. • Greg is keen to let the audience know that he writes in a journal. draw or paste in photos or other interesting items. They could keep a paper-based or a digital version and could write. from the 1970s through to today’s hits.Exploring the film VieWing the film trAiler A film trailer is a preview for a film that will soon be released. not a diary. with those who thought it was fantastic at one end and those who did not enjoy it at all on the other end. This is compounded when his older brother reels off a list of things not to do. television screens. costumes. portable media players or T-shirts emblazoned with of-the-moment slogans and iconography. the film has a contemporary yet timeless quality. the way the live action morphs into illustrations. their feelings and any issues.diaryofawimpykidmovie. Discuss as a class: • Why do you think trailers are now shown at the start of a cinema screening. Encourage them to use it each day recording interesting things that happen. The word ‘trailer’ is used because these short films were originally played after a feature film had finished screening in a cinema. SCREEN EDUCATION thinking about the opening sequence • Ask students to think about why the opening sequence of the film might begin with the diary. The film avoids use of smartphones. How does this help to tie the film to the book? Consider.the story and the narrative drivers . the filmmakers use a mix of songs from different periods. for example Greg thinks about popularity rankings and makes comments such as ‘I’d say you’re around the 154 mark’.) • Use a large screen or interactive whiteboard to view the Diary of a Wimpy Kid film trailer. • Discuss what you learn about the relationship between Greg and his older brother in the opening sequence (when Greg flies into a panic after his brother tells him he has overslept). mobile phone screens. Your turn: real life journal • Ask each student to start his or her own journal. Make class notes recording what you find out about: . for example. which is available at <http://www. props and so on from the film that you think do position the film in a particular place or period. setting Like Kinney’s books. • List settings. To that end. Allow students to move up and down the line as they listen to one another’s reasons for liking or not liking the trailer.problems encountered by characters . with clear sound and without interruption.characters .settings . Use of a blog is another alternative. Kinney wanted his stories to relate to kids and to their parents – to have both generations relive their school experiences without the distraction of specific cultural references. however appropriate hosting and privacy needs to be considered. Why is this? • We quickly learn that Greg is worried about beginning middle school. rather than after a film has finished? • What are all the different ways viewers might now see a trailer apart from on a cinema screen? (For example. online. This provides the best opportunity for students to engage with the film in the way intended by the filmmakers: on a large screen.

Your job is to take a camera outside and find what you think would be the perfect location for a scene if an Australian version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid was to be filmed. Production designer Brent Thomas and cinematographer Jack Green transformed three Vancouver-area schools into Greg’s middle school. and kids find that refreshing and entertaining. discuss and explain how the attributes of both characters underpin the narrative. He’s an innocent kid without an agenda. Is Greg a likeable character? Is he a believable character? Why or why not? Greg and Rowley are connected by their shared experiences. discuss the character of Greg. She enjoyed sharing it with her own children and notes that ‘Greg is blissfully unaware of what a jerk he can be. Film a scene in your location for your class to watch. Do you agree? Why or why not? chArActerisAtion AnD cAsting Producer Nina Jacobson believes the book created by Kinney is highly original and written in a smart. at least to a point. Rowley is the omega to Greg’s alpha – and happily so. Diary of a Wimpy Kid was filmed in Vancouver. sophisticated way. particularly his lack of self-awareness. Use the camera to take three shots of your location from different angles.’ • As a class. He has a harsh view of the world. yet is optimistic about his ability to work the system to his advantage. specifically Greg’s search for his identity through recognition and popularity at school. SCREEN EDUCATION 6 . whereas Greg is all agenda.trying to make the film timeless? Why do you have this opinion? What changes would you have made to ensure the film has a timeless feel and why? • List clues that suggest the film is probably set in the United States. though in most respects they’re polar opposites. • Locations for the film have been selected in such a way that most kids watching the film could relate to it as if it happened to them. As a class. for example the celebration of Halloween. Your turn: real-life set • Work in a small group as ‘location scouts’. Greg is battle-weary and hyper-ambitious. which doubled for the book’s unspecified town. Your turn: technology today • Create a large class collage showing as many different tools as you can that are used for communication today. Canada. Your turn: compare and contrast characters • Use the ‘Greg vs Rowley’ worksheet on page 20 of this study guide to compare and contrast the two characters.

’ • Do you agree with Kinney’s statement? • As a class. Greg’s inner circle includes Fregley (Grayson Russell). She calls middle school an ‘intellectual wasteland’ and a ‘glorified holding pen’. with which he terrorises Greg. hyper. but the film satirises him too – for example. Greg used to taunt her in kindergarten and she still holds a grudge – now she is out for payback! When Greg tries to achieve wrestling stardom. is a deadly ‘booger finger’. weird kid and the proud owner of a secret freckle.In addition to Rowley. How has the casting of the actor who plays Fregley helped to create this character? • What dialogue and actions contribute to actor Grayson Russell’s effective portrayal of Fregley? Greg’s arch-enemy is Patty Ferrell. whose sophisticated and mature perspective on middle school provides a sharp contrast to Greg’s wheeling and dealing. ‘He’s the weird kind of kid who stays in his front yard and attacks kites with sticks. Fregley’s secret weapon. and if you don’t then you might be one!’ says Kinney. describe Fregley. • What qualities do you think the filmmakers would have been looking for in casting the role of Chirag? Why do you think these qualities are important? • Do you think Karan Brar was a good choice for the role? Why or why not? Rodrick (Devon Bostick) is depicted as quite an evil older brother. Löded Diper (com- 7 SCREEN EDUCATION . a thin. ‘Everyone knows a Fregley. and things like that. quite blatantly through the name of his band. • What do you think is the purpose of this character in the film version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid? • How does this character help to move the narrative forward? Chirag Gupta (Karan Brar) is a diminutive Indian boy whom Greg tolerates because he is the only classmate smaller than him. • Do you think the casting of Laine MacNeil has helped to portray Patty as an arch-enemy? Why or why not? In what ways does the actor contribute to the characterisation of Patty as an arch-enemy? A less threatening female classmate is Angie Steadman (Chloë Grace Moretz). Patty’s there to stop him.

) • Do you think Greg should actually be described as ‘wimpy’? Why or why not? SCREEN EDUCATION Your turn: create a character • Imagine the film is set in an Australian school. what would it be? What adjective would describe Rowley? Rodrick? 8 . Be sure to check the suitability of the lyrics first. What is the ‘wimpy’ action that you are doing? • Compare and contrast Greg with other characters from the film using the ‘Character Analysis’ worksheet on page 21 of this study guide. If you could pick one adjective to describe Greg. plete with the very ‘rock’ diacritic marks). Act out a short scene to introduce your character to the class. Paste it onto a large piece of paper and create a humorous ‘wimpy’ body below it.What image or characteristics do people associate with heavy metal music? Why? . and the fact that the band plays very poor music. . How have costumes and dialogue added to the actor’s portrayal of Rodrick? • Rodrick plays in a heavy metal band. Do you agree? Why or why not. • Discuss the type of character portrayed in Rodrick. What does this tell you about this character and his friends? Why do you think this? .How would you describe heavy metal music? Explain the instruments.Why has heavy metal been popular among many adolescents? What is it about the music that appeals to them? Is it still popular? Why or why not? . Use what you know about stereotypes to create a character with as many Australian attributes as possible.Who are some heavy metal bands or musicians? . List physical and personal qualities of the actor that help him to portray the role effectively. Find out what is meant by stereotypes. • The filmmakers believe they populated the school with kids who looked like real middle school students. sounds and lyrics you associate with heavy metal. kids with whom audiences would respond and relate.Why do labels on heavy metal music CDs often have parental warnings or advice? Should young people be able to buy and listen to this type of music? Why or why not? • Why do you think the author of the book and the director of the film both decided to have Rodrick play in a heavy metal band? (You might like to bring in some age-appropriate heavy metal music to listen to. Give examples from the film to support your ideas.Your turn: wimp yourself Take a photo of your face and print it out on A4 paper.

and imagine myself doing those things or having them happen to me. three hairs and big shoes on a skimpy. And that just puts me into the character. I can sort of picture it in my mind. and that helps me play him. he captures – even channels – his inner wimp. A realization grabs hold: Was I a wimpy kid myself? • As a class. while always keeping him likeable and fun.’ The actor playing Greg would have the formidable task of being likeable amidst the character’s non-stop shenanigans. it features a whole ensemble of wild kids. For one thing. Greg Heffley’s experiences in middle school are handwritten on lined paper and illustrated with simple stick figure drawings that make me laugh out loud as I turn the pages. It feels fresh and honest. more importantly. who combines charisma with a bottom-rung quality – then it’s not going to work. list each of the lead and supporting characters. ‘One of the ways we had to make Greg likeable was finding the right kid to play him.Interestingly. list qualities you believe Kinney and Freudenthal might have in common. One day. ‘Well. If you say something about Greg. Read the entries from October 2008 and November 2008 (reproduced below): OctOber 2008 My movie Hotel for Dogs is in the final stages of post. I’m still recovering from shooting with a herd of animals and a whole ensemble of wild kids when producer Nina Jacobson shows me a book called Diary of a Wimpy Kid. In a box I find old notebooks I kept from fourth to sixth grade. the filmmakers focused on the critical task of finding their ‘wimpy kid’. illustrating my life in those days. Make notes to indicate decisions that may have differed if students had been in control of casting. as I clean out my office I discover why. In Kinney’s books.’ admits Nina Jacobson. Also. ‘Finding the right actor who could capture that certain “Greg Heffley” quality while remaining sympathetic.’ says producer Brad Simpson. playing Greg was both exciting and the most natural thing in the world. record students’ ideas about the casting decisions. Beside each name. he was already a huge fan of the books. It’s a rendering beloved by Diary of a Wimpy Kid readers but one that wouldn’t work in a live action film. ‘But I can also think like him. Do I really want to do this again? NOvember 2008 I can’t get the Wimpy Diary out of my head. was very difficult. Visit Freudenthal’s blog chronicling his experiences making the film at <http://www. There’s even drawn fantasy scenarios of fame and fortune.’ • Ask students to think about the decisions they would make if they were responsible for casting the film’s main characters.’ says Zachary.thewrap. ‘If you don’t have the right actor – if you don’t find the real “Wimpy Kid”. The filmmakers were looking for a young actor who could convey Greg’s charisma and many flaws. Discus as a class: • Do characters in books and films need to be likeable for the story to be successful? Why or why not? 9 SCREEN EDUCATION . slumped frame. I know it’s going to be a long search. It looks unlike any book I’ve ever seen. As work continued on the script. ‘He had to be cute and endearing. In Freudenthal’s January 2009 blog entry he records the following: After our first casting session. As a class. In addition. I’m small and thin like Greg. Zachary is in many ways similar to Greg physically and. Greg is a stick figure with a round head. but also have a lot of chutzpah. there appear to be a few qualities that author Jeff Kinney and director Thor Freudenthal share.’ For Zachary Gordon. lazy AND make us care about him! Can we find an eleven year old who meets those demands and can carry a feature-length comedy? • As a class. They’re loaded with anecdotes and drawings akin to Heffley’s diary. Greg Heffley has to be selfish. schemes and attitude. discuss whether those responsible for casting the character of Greg met Freudenthal’s requirements? Encourage students to justify their ideas.com/blog-entry/ diary-director-diary-wimpy-kid-15400>.

You will need to justify your ideas to your classmates before you add the character to the list. Likeable Loathsome 10 SCREEN EDUCATION . delivered in a diary format through Greg’s signature voice. Jacobson and Simpson wanted to capture the book’s unique approach in the movie. Do you think this was important to the film’s success? • Consider why the other techniques mentioned by Brad Simpson (directly addressing the camera. How did these techniques contribute to the telling of the story? Would you have used these techniques in this film? Why or why not? proDuction stYle AnD Design Kinney’s mix of cartoons and prose. To achieve this. and Freudenthal. which. of course.Your turn: likeable and loathsome characters • Create a T-chart (see below) and use it to categorise characters from books and films according to whether they are likeable or loathsome. use of flashbacks and vivid colour) may not usually be used in films for children. to capture the essence of who they are in Greg’s mind. Freudenthal incorporates Kinney’s iconic drawings to create a visual style that opens up the movie. made the books stand out. the use of flashbacks and vivid colours. ‘It was very important to show the characters as animated. • Explain how Thor Freudenthal’s background in animation contributed to the visual style of the film.’ says Freudenthal. who also notes the importance of other techniques not usually employed in kids’ films. is how Jeff Kinney does it in his books.’ says Simpson. like having Greg Heffley directly address the camera (and us. the audience). ‘Thor’s [Freudenthal] unique vision – he comes from the animation world – was critical.

lead graphic designer or scenic artist.com/title/tt1196141> and read through the full credits list. SCREEN EDUCATION 11 . He finally makes a run for it when he thinks Rodrick has gone. telling stories visually via sequential panels. such as arrows to show movement. While a storyboard artist will often do this task. Create a storyboard to show the changes you would make to the scene. Greg locks himself in his room. but he really needs to go to the toilet. Your turn: embarrassingly funny • Create a new scene for the film in cartoon form. Take turns to be a person applying to be part of the production crew for this film and to be an interviewer. and to research what tasks might be involved with that job. Freudenthal created his own. • Share students’ findings and then consider whether these jobs are likely to be in demand by the time they leave school. they don’t include thoughts or dialogue in speech bubbles. sound mixer. showing another embarrassing moment for Greg that the audience would find very funny. Your turn: real-life roles • Create a labelled cartoon of yourself engaged in a film production job you would enjoy. Some of these can be seen in The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary. and Greg turns in surprise and urinates all over him. while storyboards include a range of additional information to assist with the filming of the story. Rodrick busts Greg and Rowley in his room without permission when they are looking at the yearbook. Remember to plan some interview questions before you begin. including the complicated fight scene. There is quite a long list of people acknowledged in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid’s credits. • Identify another one of Greg’s problems. However. Discuss as a class: • Are the tasks involved in each job likely to change? Why or why not? • Who would like to train for one of these jobs? Why? • What might be involved in preparing yourself for this type of career? • What would be most and least enjoyable about this job? Your turn: calling for crew • Work in pairs. Visit the entry for Diary of a Wimpy Kid on the IMDB website at <http://www. then use the graphic organiser to summarise its cause and any related effects using the ‘Cause and Effect’ worksheet on page 22 of this study guide. Freudenthal created detailed storyboards. Your turn: changing the scene • Think of a scene from the film that you would like to change in some way. However. distracts Rodrick while Greg makes a run for it. Rowley. • In pairs. The trend to include closing credits listing the full production crew and cast became more established in American films around the 1970s. try to explain why the incident is humorous. list other humorous parts of the film.proDuction roles Early films tended to have no credits or only a short list of major cast and crew that opened the film.imdb. nArrAtiVe humour A storyboard is a little like a comic. ever loyal. In each case. Rodrick bursts in on him. for example gaffer. • Discuss why many people think something like this is funny. • Estimate how many people may have been part of the film’s production team. How close was your estimate? • Ask each student to select one of the jobs listed. a tie-in book written by Kinney. As part of the pre-production planning process.

where Fregley joins them. they meet Angie. honour and dignity’ is (and is not) reflected in the actions of the film’s characters. 12 . When Greg and Rowley hide under the bleacher. • As a class. discuss how the middle school motto of ‘respect. She comments on the school social environment. labelling it ‘an intellectual wasteland’ and ‘glorified holding pen’. populAritY AnD stuDent tensions The audience quickly discovers that middle school is a terrible place – we even hear the words ‘This is a terrible place’. Along with dialogue and narration. brainstorm qualities that could be the basis of a personal motto. He soon discovers all the seats are ‘taken’ and he and Rowley end up sitting on the floor by the bins. saying ‘I was making some kid’s day by sitting next to them’. • Discuss the role of Angie in the film. the audience is provided with visual evidence that middle school is not a friendly environment. the tackling of Chirag? • List other examples from the film that explore ideas about fitting in. While Rowley is happy talking to Angie. loyalty. Encourage individuals to select several qualities or attributes to form their own personal motto. Greg is not that keen. and then to draw and illustrate a shield or crest that includes the motto. which seems violent and all about who is bigger and better at sports. including the scary toilets with big guys and cubicles without doors. popularity and tensions between students at school.   • Consider the gym class with Coach Malone (Andrew McNee). such as honesty. What things occur to make Greg and Rowley uncomfortable. fearlessness. who seems to provide the voice of experience. They return to the violent game – it seems getting crushed is better than being seen talking to this girl. • As a class.Themes Your turn: what’s your motto? As a class. school: fitting in. Yet still Greg is deluded about his popularity. consider what she means by each of these phrases. kindness. SCREEN EDUCATION • Explain why each character responds to Angie in a different way. We also learn that the cafeteria is the ‘cruellest place on earth’. for example the make-up of the teams.

‘My mum told me to be myself. for example the interaction related to Rowley’s bike with the basket and ribbons. lack of it. What does it 13 SCREEN EDUCATION . one of the girls tells him he is funny and asks if she can sign his cast. When Greg is sorting through Rowley’s clothing and discussing image Rowley says. Use textas and paper to create a life size mock-up of a style of vest you think would help to keep you safe while leading a group of young children. frienDship. • When Rowley cracks a joke. While Mr Winsky (Rob LaBelle). Your turn: pitching playground legends • Work with a partner. Greg is particularly disappointed in the task of walking the kindergarten children home from school. it was passed on to an exchange student who took it overseas with him and things quietened down. • Discuss the irony of Rowley’s popularity among the girls when he returns to school with a plaster cast and the effect of this upon Greg. Discuss. Make popcorn as a class and watch your new playground legends. ‘Hey Greg.’ Greg responds. to think of a new playground legend that could form the opening scene for a sequel to the film Diary of a Wimpy Kid that explores Greg’s next year at school. This passing on became known as the ‘cheese touch’. the teacher in charge. ‘That would be good advice if you were someone else’. then that kid touched another kid to get rid of it. you wanna come over and play?’ • Why is Greg embarrassed and why doesn’t Rowley realise the problem that Greg thinks he is creating? There are many indications that Greg sees his friendship with Rowley as a handicap when it comes to popularity among his peers. Greg and Rowley join the Safety Patrol. Pitch your idea to the class. When the football hits the wheel of Rowley’s bike. but everyone – including the cleaners – have been avoiding the mouldy cheese ever since. Add an image on the back that would amuse any young children following. As a class select several of the ideas.At the end of the school day. Discuss as a class: • Rowley is the opposite of Greg – he is happy and loyal. Greg is horrified when Rowley yells out. takes it very seriously. he flies off and breaks his wrist. Chirag explains that a kid touched the mouldy cheese in the playground and became a social outcast. describing the role as involving ‘sacred trust’ and noting ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. rather. work in groups to storyboard them and then film them. • List other examples that indicate that friendship with Rowley has become a problem for Greg. • What is the significance of the legend of the ‘cheese touch’ as recounted by Chirag? Your turn: design a vest for the safety patrol • Imagine you are the company designing a vest for the Safety Patrol. thinking it to be a high-profile and responsible role. While walking home with Rowley and throwing a football at his friend he is considering how lucky Rowley is to have him as a friend. populAritY AnD loYAltY In a last-ditch effort to become more popular. Eventually. A series of events follow on from this point that revolve around Greg’s friendship with Rowley and Greg’s popularity – or. Greg continues to be deluded about the role of friendship.

Greg persists in his attempts to become popular. explore the personality traits that are exposed: .the judgement by the kindergarten children that Rowley walked them better . Greg’s comment that ‘I should be more careful what I do in front of Mrs Irvine’s house.Greg’s flight from the bullies. He has even written Greg into a Zoo-wee Mama cartoon. • There are a number of things we learn about Greg in this sequence. Discuss as a class: • Why didn’t Greg own up to Mr Winsky? • Why didn’t Greg own up to Rowley at this time? • Even though Greg thinks of things he has heard such as ‘It’s our choices that make us’. • What is the significance of Greg’s mother’s commenting ‘I think Dorothy deserved it’? In view of your responses. which has a very large ‘R’ on it. sheds even more light on Greg’s shortcomings as a friend. Another opportunity arises when the school newspaper’s cartoonist becomes sick and they need a replacement.tell you about Greg when he interjects with ‘I’m the one who broke his arm!’ • Do you agree with the girl who responds by calling him a jerk? Why or why not? • How do you think Greg feels when Rowley becomes somewhat of a celebrity among the girls and also friends with the most popular boy at school? Despite the lack of success. Why? Was it the right call? Rowley’s loyal friendship for Greg has not faltered until this point. this time by auditioning for the school production of the Wizard of Oz. Who do you consider to be the better friend and why? • Create a storyboard showing alternative scenes related to the discussion around the selection of a replacement cartoonist. When Rowley is unable to walk the kindergarten children home in the rain because of his plaster cast. along with his lack of response when Mr Winsky lectures Rowley under the assumption that he was the one who left the children in the hole. ‘You’re not a good friend. which Greg discounts as he doesn’t think it’s very good. Create a report card assessing the friendship skills and qualities of both boys. in which both boys exhibit positive friendship behaviours. Zoo-wee Mama. While he can sing. he decides to let Rowley ‘take one for the team’. Rowley is furious and proclaims.’ • What attitude is reflected in Greg’s statement that he ‘was willing to let bygones be bygones’? • Do you think Rowley would want to patch things up while Greg has this attitude? Why or why not? Your turn: friendship report • List qualities of friendship exhibited by Greg and Rowley throughout the film.sending all the children down a large hole in the ground . his determined nemesis. his voice is so high that – much to his horror – the teacher considers casting him as Dorothy. Fortunately for him. Patty. 14 SCREEN EDUCATION . is successful in securing the role and Greg is cast as a tree. While Greg can clearly draw. For each of the following. Greg does it on his own. However. Greg’s attempts to improve his popularity continue. consider Greg’s treatment of Rowley and whether he deserved such treatment. He is wearing Rowley’s raincoat. Your turn: badge of apology • Create a large badge or button that Greg could present to Rowley as a gesture of apology. Not surprisingly. and you should be more careful who you lend your raincoat to’ is the final straw. responding ‘Am I the only one who gets comedy?’ This response.leaving all the children in the hole . You break my hand – you don’t even say sorry. Include a humorous cartoon character on the badge. Greg is unimpressed when everyone applauds the announcement of Rowley as the new cartoonist.Greg’s need to hide from the bullies from Halloween . the play becomes a complete fiasco complete with an apple fight. Rowley has his own idea for a cartoon.

• In the final scenes. They’re famous. It appears they will fight with each other.the line ‘Wanna come round after school and play?’ . you just have to put yourself out there’. rather he was placing himself in the spotlight through his heroic speech. we know the bullies have made him pick up and eat the cheese. Your turn: class yearbook • Write your own biographical piece to include in a yearbook that will be a keepsake of your class this year. discuss why Greg wants to be in the yearbook. It’s meaningless. They look dorky but everyone enjoys the moment. the only clap comes from the supportive Rowley. • Explain how the smelly. SCREEN EDUCATION Early on in the film. All ideas of a fight are forgotten when the bullies from Halloween show up. Step forward! Join me!’ iDentitY When Greg and Rowley are in Rodrick’s room looking at the high achievers in the yearbook. ‘I get it – you are one of the people. We learn here that Greg is quite lazy when he comments that ‘Activities are so much work’.the school yearbook listing Greg and Rowley as ‘cutest friends’ . • What does Greg’s mother mean? • What happens when Greg tries to take his mother’s advice? Why do you think the outcome is not what Greg had hoped would happen? What impact does this have on Greg and Rowley? Rowley and his mum also dance to ‘Intergalactic’ by the Beastie Boys. • Explore how this is shown by the filmmaker by using a point-of-view shot of them dancing around one another. All the other students run and the bullies force Rowley to pick up the cheese. but Greg replies. Discuss. Without acknowledging this support. Discuss. just like this cheese. Although Rowley has his back to us. worse. ‘This is where a person like me needs to be. Consider the roles of hard work. when the geeky Fregley outwrestles Greg. • Discuss the way that dream sequences are used to present a contrast between how great Greg will be and his reality.Discuss as a class: • Greg was not protecting his friend by helping him to avoid being ostracised. that he’s actually eaten the cheese? Upon their return. his mother suggests that he try to patch things up with Rowley. saying ‘When someone’s worth it. • Why do you think the filmmakers included this scene? • Why do you think they chose this music for the scene? Back at school. what is the significance of: . • Greg was looking for fame by leading a revolt against the ‘cheese touch’. He announces it was him who ate the cheese with the rousing speech ‘I ate the cheese. dedication and application – and not just ability – in becoming a high achiever. I ate the cheese to show you how stupid the whole school is. Greg finally steps up for Rowley. Angie suggests Greg could sign up for the school paper. ‘I’m going to be in the paper a lot so it would be a conflict of interest’. • Explore how this scene is created. or a metaphor for another quality. Consider the use of carefully structured camera shots and menacing music.Greg giving Patty the ‘cheese touch’ unbeknown to her. While dancing with Greg. What does this tell you about him? • Contrast this with the scene where Greg is looking at the list of school activities. • Discuss the qualities people need to become high achievers. She says it’s the ‘voice of the people. which she works on.’ • Explore the significance of this exchange. but you can tell they don’t really want to.’ • As a class. Angie retorts. Greg links his issues 15 . mouldy cheese could be a metaphor for friendship in this film. a showdown occurs between Greg and Rowley. make fun of the people’. Greg says. • When does the audience realise that Rowley has the ‘cheese touch’ and. the students are horrified. effort.

’ says Harris. ‘but she’s not cool enough to sneak her good intentions in under the radar. Greg doesn’t always listen. 16 SCREEN EDUCATION . including his mother and older brother.back to a lack of popularity. the theme of being in the middle is equally important. Gabe Sachs. Like most kids. like middle school life. Coach Malone. and other students and teachers from school. are not ideal. Manny. bemoaning the fact that ‘Noone’s ever gonna let me sit at their table’. then using a comic book style. But. the youngster’s obsessive potty-training is a constant annoyance to Greg. Your turn: ‘uncool’ scrapbook • Ask each student to identify a real or imagined incident. While not yet possessing a teen’s conniving ways. only to quickly discover that it was anything but cool. Greg’s family experiences. He’s constantly dreaming up practical jokes and other ways to antagonise his younger brother. ‘Susan’s heart is in the right place. Share and develop possible solutions for each of the disadvantages. Angie. While much of the action is set in Greg’s middle school. Greg’s mum. looks at his three kids and wonders to himself. Greg decides that the way to popularity is to become the best dressed at school. though. Rowley. ‘Each of his three boys distresses him in a different way. Make a class scrapbook titled ‘Not cool at School’ that Your turn: this is greg’s life • Plan and script a television panel show in the style of This is Your Life that focuses on Greg’s life. they’re completely alien to him. is excited that Greg is in the paper and doesn’t seem to realise that it’s embarrassing for him. Everyone is reading it and laughing. He strolls in slow-mo with classmates shooting him admiring glances. while other students can take on the roles of Greg’s family members. ‘who are these people?’ Between Greg’s video games and Rodrick’s rock band. sketch a moment or two related to the incident with notes explaining how the incident made them feel or might make them feel. however. the film presents hilarious snippets of his home life. His parents are well-meaning but they have no idea about Greg’s day-to-day struggles at school. • Have students work with a partner to list advantages and disadvantages of being the middle child in a family.’ says co-screenwriter Jeff Judah. He is also about to confront the humiliations surrounding being in middle school. Fregley. Frank (Steve Zahn). When Greg is beaten again – by a girl! – he is photographed for the school paper. All is lost. is the only woman in a household of men and is a constant source of embarrassment for Greg.’ Another thorn in Greg’s side is three-year-old brother. another of the film’s screenwriters. Chirag. Rodrick is not your typical bully: ‘There’s an amused danger about him and an inventiveness that makes him likeable. echoes this sentiment: ‘I think that writing for the screen version of Greg Heffley felt very natural because in middle school I would often do what I thought was cool. Greg gets lots of advice from various characters.’ says Simpson. Patty. Susan (Rachael Harris). when the ever-loyal Rowley arrives wearing an identical outfit – because he wanted to match Greg. • What do these scenes tell you about Rowley? • What do the scenes tell you about the relationship between the two boys? ‘Reading the book was like looking at a scrapbook of your own adolescent bravado and stupidity. Greg’s father. says Freudenthal.’ shows these or other incidents at school where students have acted in a way that makes them feel anything but cool. ‘ Rodrick makes a sport of picking on Greg. Greg is stuck in every kid’s nightmare – he is the middle child caught between a mean older brother and a three-year-old. Rowley. potty-training-challenged sibling. fAmilY relAtionships While the word ‘wimpy’ appears in the title of both the books and the film. You will need to cast a student as the host.

teachingcomics. National Association of Comics Art Educators <http://www. author Jeff Kinney adds to the text with cartoons. Christine Evely writes educational materials for teachers and students across the curriculum and works part-time as an Education Programmer for the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.howstuffworks. • 17 . printable sheets and other resources. as well as information about creating and using comics in the classroom. ADVice from the Author of DiArY of A WimpY kiD Kinney offers the following advice: ‘I would tell them that [middle school] will all be over quickly. lesson plans and handouts for teaching about comics. Imagine Greg has a son of his own.how-to-draw-cartoons-online. Teacher Vision <http://www.html> Lesson plans.com/liveat01/kinney> Videos and an interview in which Jeff Kinney discusses the widespread appeal of his book. a theme that emerges in both the book and the film is that sometimes it is a good idea to listen to your mother. if not.com> Encourage students with an interest in comics to visit the following site for instructions to help them to create a short comic: <http://www.bordersmedia.However. father or other carer. In the book version.pdf> • Ask students whether they agree with this statement.org/attachments/ 132_MakingAMinicomics.org> Contains teaching ideas. Select one of Greg’s problems and write a letter giving him advice on how to handle the situation. and you’ll be done and through it. ask them to explain why and.’ references AnD resources Borders Media: Jeff Kinney <http://www.teachingcomics. Your turn: cartoon yourself • Ask each student to draw self-portraits in the form of line drawings.teachervision.fen. • Visit these websites for instructions to help you to draw a variety of cartoons: <http://home. • Predict Greg’s future. Write a letter from Greg to his son giving advice about starting middle school and explaining how to be popular at school. It might be fun to do this in a cartoon using two or three panels and speech bubbles. If so.com/childrens-book/ diaries/28677. SCREEN EDUCATION Your turn: Dear greg • Imagine you are the editor of a school magazine and are responsible for responding to letters from students asking for help. why not? Your turn: listen up! • Have students write an entry in their journal or diary that explores a time or an imaginary episode where he or she did not listen to their parent or carer.htm> <http://www.com/how-to-draw -cartoons.

asn.com. For hundreds of articles on Film as Text.au>.au>.com. Join ATOM’s email broadcast list for invitations to free screenings.atom. etc.theeducationshop.This study guide was produced by ATOM.org.au For more information on Screen education magazine. visit <http://www. Multiliteracy and Media Studies. Sign up now at <http://www. conferences.metromagazine. (© ATOM 2010) editor@atom. or to download other study guides for assessment.au/lists/>. visit <http://www. seminars. Screen Literacy. .

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List their similarities below the chart. honesty. for example. loyalty Actions Relationships with others Similarities 20 SCREEN EDUCATION .WORKSHEET Greg vs Rowley NAME: Make notes to show how Greg and Rowley are polar opposites. CharaCteristiCs or features GreG rowley Physical appearance Clothing Personal qualities.

WORKSHEET Character Analysis CharaCter appearanCe – physiCal features Costume DialoGue NAME: aCtion Greg Fregley Patty Rodrick Angie 21 SCREEN EDUCATION .

WORKSHEET Cause and effect NAME: What is one of the problems Greg had in the film Diary of a Wimpy Kid? Use the flowchart to show what caused the problem. Add more events on the back if necessary. Was the problem resolved? Why or why not? 22 SCREEN EDUCATION . then add any further effects that happened in relation to this problem.

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